Playing in his first career game at Clemson last month, Jordan Williams did not get off to the kind of start he had hoped for.
The redshirt freshman defensive lineman played only 11 snaps in the Tigers’ season-opener against Furman on Sept. 1 prior to exiting the game with a knee injury, which caused him to miss the next three games versus Texas A&M, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
While it was frustrating for Williams to be sidelined, he managed to stay mentally engaged in the defensive line meetings as he worked his way back to the field.
“It definitely was [frustrating], but I was still in meetings trying to take notes and just prepare like I was going to play that week, knowing that I was going to be out most definitely,” Williams said. “It was definitely frustrating, but I was still there supporting my segment, just making sure everybody was on top of things, just trying to look after everyone.”
Williams is not quite yet back to full health, but he returned to game action in Clemson’s win over Syracuse on Sept. 29. A week later, he recorded five tackles while logging a career-high 38 snaps against Wake Forest on Oct. 6.
“It really felt good to be back,” he said. “I’m still trying to work through this little knee injury I got going on, but it’s starting to feel better.”
Overall, Williams has tallied eight total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and a quarterback pressure in 51 snaps across three games.
A former highly regarded four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American, Williams played defensive end at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, Va., but was asked to move to defensive tackle upon his arrival at Clemson.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder credited veteran defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins for helping to make his transition to the interior defensive line an easier task.
“They’ve helped me a lot, honestly,” Williams said. “I feel like I wouldn’t be where I’m at. I’ve still got more improvement to do of course, but they’ve gotten me to that next level trying to work inside because it’s definitely different than outside, playing that in high school.
“But they’ve definitely been there for me, helping me with all the plays, different techniques, my footwork, my hands. It’s been really great having them around to help me with that.”
The most difficult part of the slide inside, according to Williams, was learning how to maneuver against offensive linemen with less field to work with at defensive tackle as compared to defensive end.
“Inside, there’s a lot less space,” he said. “You have to be quicker with your moves if you’re going to use them. I feel like when you’re coming off of the edge, you have more time to set things up kind of. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Everything else seems fine. Once you’re putting on a lot more weight, that obviously helped me out a little bit.”
Williams is part of a deep and talented defensive tackle rotation that includes Lawrence, Wilkins, Albert Huggins, Nyles Pinckney and Xavier Kelly.
Now healthy enough to play, Williams hopes to take advantage of his opportunities moving forward and show the coaching staff he is ready for a bigger role on the defense.
“Really just trying to earn the coaches’ trust really,” he said. “In the meetings, just taking all the notes we can, trying to learn the game plan, following after those older guys like Dexter, Christian and Albert. I think that’s really the big part of just trying to earn that trust from the coaches.”